Public Aelius Hadrianus was born in Italica, a roman colony in Spain, on the 24th of January in 76 A.D.. His father had the same name as the son, but he had the nickname "Afer", which means "African". He got it for his outstanding service in Mauretania, he had been a praetor. Hadrian's mother was called Domitia Paulina and very little is known about her. Hadrian came from a distinctive family, not only his father was a praetor, but also his cousin Marcus Ulpius Trajanus, who by birth was "in the running" for the title of emperor.
Africa was only just across the straits, only a hundred miles from Italica. Although this city might have dealings with Africa, this continent still was alien, inferior and hostile. Therefore young Hadrian would receive a view of "foreigners" and their ideas that would imbue him with a lack of sympathy for un-roman and un-greek people and ideas. During his adult life, he was often to show it. Hadrian grew up to be a strong, tall young man. He was an ardent athlete and loved hunting. But he also was very smart and loved the greek classics, so that he was called Greekling by his contemporaries. On top of it he sang, wrote poetry, painted, was a sculptor and would later reveal himself as an architect.
When Hadrian was ten, his father died and he was placed under the custody of his cousin Trajan and Acilius Attianus, an eques, who both lived in Rome. Because Trajan was soon called away for service on the northern frontier of the empire, the care and the responsibility for his education devolved on Attianus. So Hadrian came to live in Rome, a city which he never learned to love because it was so different from his home town.
After five years Hadrian was sent back to Italica, to "toughen" him up. Attianus was afraid that a longer sojourn in Rome would make Hadrian too narrow and bookish. In Italica he picked up his old hobby of hunting. His brother-in-law Servianus, thirty-one years older than Hadrian, who had always hated him, say in this hobby a way of getting rid of him. He wrote a letter to Trajan, saying that Hadrian did nothing but hunt, and that he was extravagant and had run into debt. Trajan immediately summoned the boy to Rome, after being two years away from the capital.
Trajan, who grew very fond of Hadrian, found a job for him. This was quite unusual for such a young boy, but not a bad choice for Hadrian soon rose to be a tribune. In 96 A.D., when Hadrian was on duty in what now is Bulgaria, the emperor Domitian was assassinated. He had neither left nor adopted an heir, so it was left to the senate to appoint a new emperor. They chose Nerva, sixty-five years old. He was not expected to live long, so he already had to nominate an heir in 97 A.D.. He appointed Trajan, to great satisfaction of the roman people, because he was a successful servant of Rome. Three months after that Nerva died, on 25th January in 98 A.D.. Trajan now was officially emperor.
When Hadrian was twenty-four it was in those days high time he was married. Trajan's wife Plotina, who also had taken to fancy Hadrian because she had no children of herself, arranged the marriage with a great-niece of the emperor, Sabina. Unfortunately they didn't like each other and even grew to hate each other, but Hadrian thought it to be impudent to oppose Plotina, so the wedding took place.
In the year 101 A.D. Hadrian became quaestor. Almost at once he was called to duty. In the following years he took part in several wars, which can be devided in to spheres and epochs: The wars in Dacia, now Romania:
101/102 -First war
105/106 -Second war106 -Annexation of Arabia
1 13-1 15 -War against Parthia
1 15 -Jewisch revolt in Cyrene
116 -Further revolt in the Levant, including the Jews
In 105 A.D., after the first was in Dacia, Hadrian was nominated tribune. Then he again was called to Dacia, together with Trajan, who appointed him commanding officer of the most important troops. It was then that Hadrian received a very important gift. Trajan gave him a ring, as an indication that he would be appointed as his heir. In the following year he was appointed praetor and the year after that governor of Lower Pannonia (now Eastern-Hungary) where he solved some difficult problems so successfully that he was appointed consul. He was only thirty-three.
Trajan however wasn't getting much younger. The war against Parthia had wrecked his health so much he went back for Rome. Sadly, he died before he came there, on 8th August, 117 A.D.. On his deathbed he appointed Hadrian as his heir. Hadrian, being two-hundred and fifty miles away, heard the news on the 9th of August. He, Hadrian, forty -two years old, was emperor of Rome.
But not everyone was cheering: A few people with high ranks began to make trouble, saying that Hadrian wasn't appointed at all by Trajan. Others began to say that Plotina had forged the letter in which Trajan wrote that Hadrian would be his successor. By writing a letter to the senate, explaining the circumstances, asking for their approval he managed to surpress the troubles. For now, because some time after that Attianus found out that there were two conspiracies against Hadrian. He had the people responsible killed and told the news to Hadrian. From this Hadrian concluded that he wasn't very popular at all. He began to take some measures: He cancelled all debts owed to the imperial treasure, he provided a magnificent spectacle in the circus, in which two hundred lions were killed, on his birthday in 119 A.D., he extended Trajan's infant welfare centres and he provided regurly-paid maintenance grants for the ppor.
After a fire Hadrian rebuyhe Pantheon, between 118 and 125 A.D.. He was very modest in leaving the original inscription on the new building. Nowadays it is thought that Hadrian himself has designed the new building because he probably also designed his own villa in Tivoli.
He died in 138 A.D., consumptive and dropsical. He was buried in the mausoleum, which he also had built himself.